“The Bear”, the comedy-drama series created by Christopher Storer and touted by many as the best TV show of 2022, has been praised for its realistic portrayal of the restaurant industry, its humor, and its stellar performances. The show stars Jeremy Allen White as Carmen "Carmy" Berzatto, a young chef from the fine dining world who returns to his hometown of Chicago to manage the chaotic kitchen at his deceased brother's sandwich shop.
The show boasts a 99% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and has been nominated for several awards. But beyond its popularity and critical acclaim, it rightly captures the drama and the ups and downs of a restaurant kitchen, and as we follow the journey of Carmy and the crew in running their restaurant, we can learn some valuable lessons in the domain of restaurant staff training.
In this blog post, we will discuss five lessons in restaurant training that can be learned from The Bear (possible minor spoilers ahead).
1. Communication is key: ensure clarity, respect and feedback
Restaurant environments can be high-pressure and high-speed. Things are constantly changing, and not everyone is equally receptive or adaptive to change. Changes should be communicated clearly, and it should be clearly explained why certain changes are being made and what benefits they bring.
In the show, Carmy takes over the restaurant from his brother and makes some major changes in the culture, operations and menu. One of the first changes was making every employee call each other “Chef” as a sign of mutual respect.
Another example of change is when Carmy leaves a much younger and newer employee, Sydney, in-charge of operations. When she tries to make improvements to certain tasks, she naturally faces some dismay from senior employees, who are unwilling to switch from the existing ways of doing things. But eventually when Sydney demonstrates how beneficial the change would be and shows her worth, the senior employees are much more receptive.
In the case of The Bear, the team is small so conveying changes to everyone is much easier, but imagine if you have a large workforce or multiple branches. Communicating in-person to everyone is impossible due to the size of operations, and since people are working in shifts, not everyone is available at the same time to know about the changes. In modern days, chat groups on messaging apps like Messenger, WhatsApp etc. are used. But in these cases, many people miss messages, and important messages get lost in the barrage of other texts. And this is where tools like spoon.tech can come in handy, because managers can easily make any change in the system and employees get notified. They can then learn the new process immediately and check them out later in the mobile app.
2. Show commitment in employees’ growth
Workers from the younger generations put growth within the company and learning new skills at the highest of their priorities, according to LinkedIn’s Workplace Learning Report 2023.
In contrast, according to Pew Research Center, 63% of employees in the US say that they quit their jobs because they feel there is no scope of advancement.
However, in many cases, while establishments do have plenty of growth and learning opportunities, they simply fail to highlight and communicate these opportunities to their employees.
This is an area where Carmy and The Bear provide a great example. Leveraging his connections from the culinary world, Carmy sends his young pastry chef Marcus to train under a fellow chef in Copenhagen. He also sends his cousin and operations handler Richie to learn top-notch service at a fine dining restaurant. Both of them learn valuable lessons from the training, but more importantly, their loyalty and respect for the company grow exponentially and they go extra-mile for the business when they return from training.
While not every restaurateur can send their employees abroad or have fine dining connections to leverage, they can make sure they’re committed for the growth of employees and demonstrate it to them.
If you have a large workforce and it isn’t possible to communicate this individually, you can take advantage of digital tools like spoon.tech where employees can see everything they have to learn at different levels of their career right at the homepage of the app, giving them the perception that they have a long way to grow within the organization.
3. It’s never too late to learn
Before opening the new restaurant, Carmy and Sydney send two of their most veteran employees, Tina and Ebra, to culinary school. They were highly experienced but didn’t have the formal training before. This experience equipped Tina to become the sous-chef in the newly opened “The Bear”, and they didn’t have to look for external resources any longer.
Such practices encourage a culture of lifelong learning and help employees reach their full potential or take their expertise to the next level. It is important to acknowledge and value the experience of veteran employees, but at the same time, it should also be instilled that it is never too late to learn new things. Such endeavors also show them that they are part of the future plans of the organization.
4. Personalize the training: one size doesn’t fit all
It’s crucial to understand that every employee has different needs, and everyone learns at different speeds. In the previous section we talked about how the veteran employees at The Bear, Ebra and Tina, were sent to culinary school. But while Tina enjoyed and shined there, Ebra struggled and left after a couple of classes. This was because he was less receptive to change and felt more comfortable with the older ways. The restaurant later found another area where his experience could be more valuable. Restaurants need to understand the needs of employees and design their training programs accordingly. The needs of employees should be at the heart of the training program.
5. Adopt technology, but don’t rush it
In today’s day and age, restaurants need to adopt technology to streamline their operations and create an efficient operation. However, this should be done carefully, and the rollout shouldn’t be rushed. In the show, the restaurant brings in a new ordering system, and it’s launched almost immediately. Disaster ensued as someone had mistakenly turned on the pre-order option, and as a result, the orders skyrocketed way beyond their capacity, even before the restaurant opened for the day. The entire staff was severely underprepared for that, and it resulted in chaos. There was a lot of screaming, two employees nearly quit in the middle of the shift, and the kitchen caught fire.
To prevent such incidents, technology tools should be adopted cautiously. It should be introduced on a small-scale trial basis first. Employees should be trained and onboarded about its usage and benefits, and then it should be rolled out companywide.
This is why we at spoon.tech have a robust execution roadmap where a client gets a free trial period, during which the tool is first launched as a trial in one/two selected locations. And then, depending on its success, it is rolled out companywide across multiple locations.
"The Bear" isn't just entertainment—it offers valuable insights for restaurant staff training. By learning from both successes and setbacks depicted in the show, restaurant owners can create a nurturing environment that fosters growth, efficiency, and teamwork. Incorporating effective communication, supporting employee growth, embracing lifelong learning, personalized training, and strategic technology adoption can transform your restaurant's workforce into a dynamic and cohesive team. Just as Carmy and his team navigate the restaurant's challenges, so can you navigate the path to a thriving establishment.